Passport photograph of girl's bare shoulders rejected 'as it may offend'
A five-year-old girl's passport application was rejected because her photograph showed her bare shoulders.Hannah Edwards's mother, Jane, was told that the exposed skin might be considered offensive in a Muslim country.
The photograph was taken at a photo-booth at a local post office for a family trip to the south of France.
Because of the way the camera was set up, the picture came out showing Hannah's shoulders.
The family had it signed and presented it at a post office with the completed form but were told that it would not be accepted by the Passport Office.
A woman behind the counter informed them that she was aware of at least two other cases where applications had been rejected because a person's shoulders were not covered.
Mrs Edwards, a Sheffield GP, said: "I was incensed. I went back home and checked the form. Nowhere did it say anything about covering up shoulders. If it had, I would have done so, but it all seems so unnecessary.
"This is quite ridiculous, I followed the instructions on the passport form to the letter and it was still rejected. It is just officialdom pandering to political correctness.
"It is a total over-reaction. How can the shoulders of a five-year-old girl offend anyone? It's not as if anything else was showing, the dress she wore was sleeveless, but it has a high neck." Hannah had her first passport when she was three months old. Her mother and her father, Martin, realised that it was due to expire during their holiday later this month and decided to renew it advance.
They aimed to complete the application on Saturday, the same day that Hannah was to be Sheffield Wednesday football team's mascot at Hillsborough stadium. Mrs Edwards was also on call from her surgery.
After the rejection at the post office, Mrs Edwards spent two hours taking Hannah for new pictures, filling in a new form and finding the necessary "responsible citizens" to endorse the photos.
"The people who had signed the original application were not available," Mrs Edwards said. "I had to chase around and eventually found a neighbour who was a teacher to sign the pictures.
"The Passport Office should set this sort of thing out in its forms if it is going to be so pedantic."
A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service said it was not its policy to reject applications with bare shoulders.
"The guidance set out on the application form doesn't include it, this picture should have been absolutely fine," she said. "If people follow those rules there should be no problem.
"The Post Office obviously has its rules and we can't comment on that. We are aware of a case in the past where an error was made involving similar circumstances, although I don't know the exact details. Staff should be aware of the rules."
A Post Office spokesman said: "Our offices have a Passport Office template which says what the photograph should and shouldn't be.
"Bare shoulders don't come into that at all. We can't see any instruction to that effect so all we can do is apologise to Mrs Edwards. It was clearly a mistake made by the clerk at the post office.
"It is the first time we have heard of such a rejection and we will take it up with that particular office.
"We do around three million passport applications a year. It is one of our most popular services and it is normally extremely effective.
"We have a much lower rejection rate compared to applications submitted directly to the Passport Office."
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